The Raiders went into free agency hoping to get stronger at cornerback, the team’s biggest weakness.
In signing Eli Apple, they’ve done that. Or, perhaps they haven’t.
Based on Apple’s play since being the 10th overall pick of the NFL draft in 2016, it’s hard to say.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder from Ohio State – selected by the New York Giants – has had an up-and-down pro career in two-plus seasons with the Giants and then 20 games with the Saints since a 2018 trade.
He’s started 48 games over four seasons and has three interceptions, 33 passes defensed, six fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.
Probably the best stretch of his career came in 2018, when he played 10 games for New Orleans and had two interceptions while being in on 52 tackles.
In New York, he was a disappointment. As Cody Williams of the NFL Spin Zone wrote recently, Apple’s play never approached the level of a 10th-overall pick, and he reportedly “was an issue in the locker room.” He was suspended at one point for arguing with a coach, and teammate Landon Collins called him “a cancer.”
Over 2018 and 2019 in New Orleans, however, that changed. Williams noted Apple “was one of the best cornerbacks in coverage this past season, showing out consistently for the majority of the year.”
That might be an overstatement. The analytic website Pro Football Focus ranked Apple the 61st-ranked corner of 113 qualifying players.
But, Apple says he’s grown from those early Giants seasons and says he’s “embarrassed” by his behavior then, and has worked to improve as a player.
Noted ESPN, of Apple’s more recent play: “His size and length make him an asset in man coverage.”
Apple will have a chance to compete for a starting corner spot opposite second-year cornerback Trayvon Mullen.